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TV and the art of telling terror stories

If MTV Roadies is meant to be a representation of the country’s youth, then they are all sexually confused and essentially masochistic, writes Shreevatsa Nevatia.

india Updated: May 16, 2008, 23:34 IST
Shreevatsa Nevatia
Shreevatsa Nevatia

Not many are as aimless or as nocturnal as I am. Saturday, a little after midnight, I tune into Star World. Endorsed by the likes of Meg Ryan, Cameron Diaz and Goldie Hawn, Pangea Day it was meant to be the kind of event that helps provide adequate purpose to the advent of satellites and television. The concept: for four hours, the world will sit around a ‘global campfire’ watching the same short films and, thereby, share the same stories. Me, the lover of the short-film format, is somewhat excited. The enthusiasm proves to be short lived.

The films are a decent watch but it’s what transpires in between that leaves me livid, bored and desperate to pour myself yet another glass of my preferred intoxicant. I am thrown completely off-guard when bombarded with words such as love, joy, hope, peace, dreams and sorrow all too often. These universal emotions are meant to be felt by one and all. My cynical heart insists that only I will have an idea about what I talk about when I talk about love. If someone mentions the words ‘harvesting human emotions’ then it becomes the last straw for me.

Let’s face it, the stories being shared around the ‘global campfire’ this week can all be distilled into sorry numbers — over a lakh of people dead in Myanmar, 40,000 and more in China and 75 in Jaipur. As the Pink City witnessed its hitherto unknown share of red, what shocked me more was Aaj Tak’s solution to the we-don’t-have-any-new-information-to-give-you problem. Images of blood splattered in the city were played in a cyclical fashion, set to music that would best befit a Hercule Poirot cinematic adaptation. They must be complimented for their ingenuity, though.

Hopping as I did, from one channel to another, I couldn’t help but think that there must exist a How-to-Deconstruct-a-Terror Attack-manual for the anchors and reporters of all news channels.

What was not predictable, however, was Shoaib Akhtar scalping four wickets on his IPL debut that very night. Just when I had had my adequate staple of realistic gore, the Kolkata Knight Riders gave me due reason to cheer. Despite my ambivalent affinity to the city where I was raised, I cannot help but lend my support to Shah Rukh Khan’s boys in black (the gold is a tad opulent for me). But I have had enough of cricket, the predictably close finishes, the controversial length of some cheerleader’s skirt and most of all, I am sick and tired of Greg Chappell and Co shouting “Silly moment of success!” into their microphones. Capturing as it does the spirit of the tournament, there must be a limit to how unoriginal commentators can get.

I often judge moments of televised success by the text messages I receive during and after the broadcasted silliness. Apart from IPL, two other events seem to have captured the imagination of fellow couch potatoes. First on the list is Madonna in a comeback-video that shows her wearing a skin-coloured corset, stockings and oodles of Botox. The original Pop video Queen does seem to have come a long way. I refer to more than just her age.

Now coming to the second item on the menu for today, MTV Roadies. Even friends who would have otherwise scoffed at the concept of reality television have now religiously followed the moans and groans of the show's whiny, backstabbing, exceedingly vacuous participants for the past few weeks. If you have ever subjected yourself to the tormenting Roadies auditions, you would be familiar with the most despicable character on Indian television — a bald man with fancy glasses and a fancier goatee who goes by the name of Raghu. His idea of pushing wannabe contestants to the hilt is playing serve and volley with pop-patriotic sentiments, making them playact the role of an angry gorilla and generally being as rude as it gets.

If the show is meant to be a representation of the country’s youth, this is the picture I get — they cannot have enough of beeped expletives, they are all sexually confused and are essentially masochistic. Having said all that, I will shamelessly admit that I’ll be watching the Roadies Grand Finale tonight with considerable interest. Self-contradiction, you might have realised, is the best way forward.

Poonam Saxena’s Small Screen will be back next week.

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